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Last stop before a nuclear Iran

Posted by Zand-Bon on Feb 18th, 2010 and filed under Feature Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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February 18, 2010

The West, rightly or wrongly, seems to have ruled out military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities — even as the Islamic Republic prepares to upgrade uranium to levels just short of those needed to make nuclear bombs. And more sanctions will do little more than inconvenience the Tehran regime, especially since Russia and China seem willing to help Iran circumvent any boycotts or restrictions imposed by the United States and the European Union. That leaves the faint hope that pro-democracy protestors might topple the mullahs as the world’s last, best chance of averting a nuclear Iran.

It seems highly unlikely that a group of unarmed demonstrators will be able to out-match Iran’s hard-line religious leaders and increasingly brutal, radicalized military. The ease with which authorities were able violently to suppress pro-democracy rallies last week demonstrates what a rickety basket the world has put all its eggs in. But, then, who would have predicted Ukraine’s Orange Revolution or Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution before they occurred?

However, if Western governments are committed to the pro-democracy option, they at least must pursue it more vigorously. They are currently nothing more than passive, sideline observers. If Iran’s protesters are to have any chance of success, Western nations must be more vocal in their support and, behind the scenes, readier with aid and assistance.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama said his nation was willing to ramp up its sanctions against Iran — which already include a freeze on Iranian assets held by American banks and a ban on technology transfers –if the UN would not toughen its sanctions. Such a bidding war is meaningless, though. Unilateral sanctions never work. In this case, Russia or China merely fill in any gaps in the West’s trade with Tehran. Sanctions only work if the entire world abides by them, and that is not going to happen anytime soon.

Air strikes are out, since the Iranians have spread their nuclear work around several sites and buried each deep beneath the ground. Even attacks by special forces appear to be off the table.

So what proactive steps is the West taking -especially the U.S. — to prevent Iran’s nuclearization? Almost none that we can see. And that lack of action is not only propelling Iran’s nuclear program along, it is encouraging the enemies of democracy in the Islamic world to view the West as weak and feckless.

Just as he said little about last summer’s fraudulent election in Iran, Mr. Obama has said almost nothing about last week’s anti-regime rallies in Tehran. Knowing that the U.S. President is reluctant to criticize them even for their most outrageous civil rights abuses merely fires the Islamic radicals’ determination to confront and provoke the developed, democratic world at every opportunity.
Mr. Obama and other Western leaders, including our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper, should be blaring their support for the demonstrators and, if possible, funnelling them aid.

After he was released from a Soviet gulag, dissident Natan Sharansky explained how former president Ronald Reagan’s description of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” had demoralized the regime and invigorated the communists’ many prisoners of conscience. Even though they were shut away from the world and, supposedly, cut off from all communication, the inmates of Soviet prisons and mental hospitals heard what had been said.

Similarly, Iranian dissidents will hear what Western leaders say and take strength to continue their struggle. But the leaders cannot be mealy-mouthed, as Mr. Obama has been. They cannot be timid or worried about giving offence to Iran’s government.

Mr. Reagan weathered considerable criticism for his depiction of the U.S.S.R. It was predicted his words would inflame the Kremlin and escalate East-West conflict. However, the opposite occurred. Speaking the uncomfortable truth about communism helped bring it down, worldwide.

Western leaders today would be excoriated, too, for speaking ill of Iran. Many commentators would insist harsh words will further entrench the mullahs and generals who run Iran and radicalize even more in the Muslim world. But lack of verbal frankness is getting us nowhere. So why not try a little harshness?

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